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< > Dendrocygna arcuata - Wandering whistling-duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)









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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Wandering Tree Duck
Whistling teal
Black-spotted tree duck
Water Whistling Duck
Water Whistler
Diving Whistling Duck
Water whistle-duck (Australia)
Wanderpfeifgans (German)
Dendrocygne Ó lunules (French)
SuirirÝ Capirotado (Spanish)
Dendrocygna arcuata pygmies
Dendrocygna arcuata. arcuata
Dendrocygna arcuata australis

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B4, B8, B19, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B97, B139

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
Whistling-ducks generally do well, either in pens or in a park with access to extensive water area and good natural cover. They are gregarious outside the breeding season, and groups may bully smaller duck species, so should be kept in large areas, in which other birds have room to escape. Most need shelter in severe weather and a well-sheltered pen with frost-free night quarters for winter is suggested, or plenty of ground cover and/or straw to stand on, as they are susceptible to frostbite. They may be kept fully-flighted in aviaries, and have also been kept full-winged in open pens, tending not to wander. Perches should be provided at an appropriate height for pinioned or wing-clipped birds. Commercial pellets and grain are suitable for feeding.

Elevated nest boxes are appreciated by most species, although pinioned birds will use ground-level boxes; boxes may be placed over water or land. Eggs may be incubated by bantams and ducklings may be bantam-reared. Many species have been successfully parent-reared in captivity. Pairs kept isolated and fully flighted in a covered pen, with high-hung nest boxes "seldom fail to rear broods" (B7). Whistling-duck species may hybridise with one another and therefore should be kept in separate enclosures, and hybridisation has also occasionally been reported with Netta peposaca - Rosy-billed pochard.

(J23.13.w10, B7, B29, B97).

Species-specific information:
This is one of the least hardy of the whistling-ducks. These ducks may be maintained in groups or in mixed collections. Enclosures containing a pond with substantial vegetation and a water depth of at least one metre (3 ft 3 inches) are prefered, although they may also be kept in aviaries. A soft substrate such as grass is prefered and appropriate low, large-diameter perches should be provided; these ducks appear particularly prone to the development of Bumblefoot on hard substrates. They may also easily be stressed by capture.

Breeding success has been very good in recent years in Australia. Wandering whistling ducks nest on the ground, under the protection of long grass or a bush, not necessarily near water; they also use hollow logs and ground-level or raised nest boxes. These ducks normally lay May to June (northern hemisphere), September to April northern Australia, September to January in southern Australia. Use of overhead sprinklers (approximately one hour every other day) in combination with increased protein in the diet may stimulate breeding (B139).

Ducklings may be parent reared (parents are very protective). Artificially reared ducklings should be kept in their own group - they tend to attack strange birds. The ducklings eat voraciously and care should be taken to provide sufficient food or the lowest-ranking ducklings may not get to eat; if necessary, obviously undersized birds should be removed and reared seperately (B139).

Artificial incubation and rearing may be used, although imprinting may occur if they are given much contact with humans in the first 4-6 hours after hatching. Broodies may also be used, and ducklings have been reared successfully by Dendrocygna eytoni - Plumed whistling-duck and Chenonetta jubata - Maned duck.

Wandering whistling-ducks readily hybridise with Dendrocygna bicolor - Fulvous whistling-duck and should be kept separate from that species; they have also been known to hybridise with Dendrocygna eytoni - Plumed whistling-duck.

(J23.13.w10, B29, B139).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: D. a. arcuata L 11.0mm, D. a. australis M 12.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 16-18" 40-45cm (B1, B3)
Adult weight General 453-986g (B1)
Male 866-948g average 741g (B3)
Female 453-986g average 732g (B3)
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Black
Variations (If present) --
Eyes (Iris) Male Dark brown
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Black
Eyes (Iris) Dark brown

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Adult Male Grey
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Grey

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Adult Male Head and neck buff with darker crown (from eye dorsally) and hindneck.

Breast buff with black spotting.

Abdomen and flanks chestnut, ventral area, undertail coverts and outer uppertail coverts whitish. Line of somewhat elongated creamy flank feathers with black outer feather web.

Upperparts dark brown with chestnut edgings on mantle and scapular feathers.

Wing dark brown with chestnut lesser coverts.

Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Underparts duller, back feathers lack pale edges, less chestnut on upperwing.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts pale brown-grey with white spots. Underparts whitish. Face streaked.
Bill: Grey
Feet: Grey

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins at the start of the wet season. December to April in Queensland, December to May in New Guinea.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On the ground, often away from the water in vegetation. Using plant material but no down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 10 (B8)
Range 6-15 (B1, B8)
Egg Description Creamy white. Size: 51 x 35 mm, weight: 40g.

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28-30 days (B1, B8).

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12-13 weeks (B1).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Feed mainly on water, diving up to 3m (10ft) and also dabbling on the surface and stripping seeds from plants along the water's edge.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building In single pairs.
Incubation Both parents incubate.
Newly-hatched Both tend the ducklings. Sometimes 'adopt' stray ducklings.

Usually tended by both parents until fledging. Sometimes large groups of up to 60 ducklings are found with few or no adults.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Feeding flocks of 3,000 individuals are common, with flocks of up to 40,000 birds seen outside the breeding season. Flocks are made up of pairs and their families.
Inter-specific Sometime 'adopt' stray Dendrocygna eytoni - Plumed whistling-duck ducklings.

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Sexual Behaviour

Strong, permanent pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Feeding flocks are very active; hindmost birds in feeding flocks 'leapfrog' to the front.
Circadian Forage mainly during the day, but also active at night.

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Natural Diet


Basically vegetarian. Particularly favours water lilies (Nymphaea), also sedges, other aquatic plants, and grasses.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal D. a. arcuata: Philippines, South Borneo, Sulawesi, Java, Lesser Sundas, Moluccas (Indonesian islands).

D. a. australis: North Australia and South New Guinea.

[D. a. pygmaea: New Britain and Fiji] Probably extinct.

Water-dependant, therefore dispersed widely in the wet season, concentrated on permanent waters in the dry season.

Occasional and Accidental




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Prefers deep, permanent lakes, swamps and lagoons, with emergent vegetation. Also utilise creeks and rivers and seasonally-flooded grasslands.

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Intraspecific variation

Dendrocygna arcuata pygmies almost certainly extinct.
D. a. arcuata
D. a. australis

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not globally threatened. Remain abundant in Australia and The Philippines.

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Some hunting pressure in Australia. Also habitat damage.

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Captive Populations

The Asian subspecies is less common in captivity than it used to be.

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